Hydro-Social Deltas


The project includes two PhD studies based on coordinated fieldwork in Bangladesh that will focus on understanding how the interactions and feedbacks between water and human systems impact on disaster risk reduction strategies and urban development, and vice versa.

PhD student Ruknul Ferdous has a natural sciences focus. The main objective of this PhD is to understand the dynamic interactions between hydrological and social processes, besides climate change impacts, in Bangladesh. In Bangladesh floodplains, most people are regularly affected by flooding and riverbank erosion. In turn, changes in land use (due to demographic shifts and livelihood changes) and other human interventions (dams, polders) affect the hydrological process of the area.

This research will develop hypotheses about the behaviour of the Brahmaputra floodplain as interdependent human-water system, and test these hypotheses by spatial and temporal modelling to see if co-evolution between human and water systems can be detected.

PhD student Wajid Hasan Shah has a social sciences focus. He will identify, measure and analyse how the social processes driving peri-urban settlement in Dhaka are changing the levels and distribution of flood risk within the city and across society and social effects in  'sender' communities. Questions are for example:

  • How does migration increase or decrease vulnerability and reduce or displace risk, either over time or space, redistributing flood risk between the protected urban areas and unprotected peri-urban areas outside the defences?
  • What is the interaction between structural flood interventions and vulnerability?
  • How do non-regularised (new and more established) arrivals gain access to basic services, property rights and urban flood protection when not included in flood protection measures; how do migrants cope with and exploit economic and governance opportunities?

Post-doctoral researcher Anna Wesselink will work with all project members in order to combine the empirical data and the outcomes of the two PhD studies and MSc research (to be defined) in order to integrate research findings from both the Netherlands and Bangladesh.

She will:

  • explore how demographic transitions in the Southwest Delta of the Netherlands impact Dutch flood management policies;
  • develop a conceptual model for understanding flows of water and flows of people;
  • examine how the different delta trajectories followed by the Netherlands and Bangladesh may mutually inform future planning.